Most Known For: “Avengers,” “Iron Man,” “The Da Vinci Code,”
Snubbed For: “Master and Commander,” “A Beautiful Mind”
Under the Circuit is back after a couple weeks off for the holidays, and we’re kicking 2015 off with Paul Bettany. The British actor’s most famous role may be as the voice of Tony Stark’s super computer Jarvis in “Iron Man” and “The Avengers,” but Bettany has been a solid character actor since he broke out in 2001 with roles in blockbusters and dramas. Though still searching for that first Oscar nomination, Bettany has been in the conversation a couple of times.
Bettany’s first taste of awards success came across the pond in his native England for his performance in “Gangster No. 1.” As a young gangster making his way up through the criminal ranks, Bettany earned nominations for Best Newcomer by the London Critics Circle and Best Actor by the British Independent Film Awards. A year later Bettany would not only make his big arrival in the states, but he would have his first go at the Oscar.
2001 saw Bettany star in “A Knights Tale” as a roudy Geoffrey Chaucer, but the big coup was his supporting turn as Charles, one of John Nash’s hallucinations, in the Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind.” Bettany’s Charles takes on varying roles in the film. When we first meet him he is Nash’s confidant, only friend and motivator and Bettany makes him as endearing a friend as there could be. However, after the reveal that Charles is a hallucination the performance switches to that of a haunting ghost and Bettany’s makes the transition seamlessly.
Considering its popularity with the Academy, four wins and eight total nominations, it is a little surprising Bettany didn’t receive some more attention for his work, but being so fresh might have hurt him against a list of nominees of established vets like Jim Broadbent, Ian McKellen, Ben Kingsley, Jon Voight and Ethan Hawke. Bettany’s lone recognition for his work would come in the form of a Best Ensemble nomination from SAG, though he would receive a nomination for Most Promising Performer from the Chicago Film Critics Association as well.
Perhaps working with Russell Crowe brings something special out of Bettany, as he would again deliver an awards-worthy turn in “Master and Commander.” Once again, he plays Crowe’s confidant as the doctor on a naval ship during the Napoleonic Wars. He was a much larger factor on the circuit this time around, earning nominations for Best Supporting Actor from BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and Las Vegas, London and Utah Film critics; they would materialize into no wins, however. Another popular film with the Academy, “Master and Commander” racked up two wins from ten nominations, but most were below the line save for Picture and Director for Peter Weir.
Since then Bettany hasn’t really had a play for Oscar. The closest being his turn as Charles Darwin in 2010’s “Creation,” but the critics buried the film and then it faded into the obscurity of a January release. In fact this is somewhat indicative of Bettany’s career; he’s had some bad luck leading films, but is often an invaluable asset as a supporting player, once again made clear as a part of the nominated ensemble of “Margin Call.”
Bettany’s star status may be on the rise in 2015 though as he will go from a voice actor in “Avengers” to a full in the flesh performance as the Vision. What comes after “Avengers” is still unclear, at least in front of the camera. Bettany made his first film as a director in 2014 with “Shelter,” which premiered at Toronto. Reviews were mixed, but it’s interesting to see Bettany explore new areas of filmmaking.
Definitely wouldn’t say that we need to go banging on the Academy’s door for the omissions of Bettany thus far in his career, but he has certainly provided some turns that were worthy of a little more consideration and I’m confident that same will be true down the line.